Strengths and weaknesses:
- two-year warranty
Urban mobility gets a little Smart-er
"Even though the original version has gained a reputation for being fuel-efficient, a fully electric version will shortly hit the Canadian market."
BERLIN - A great urban centre usually comes with a handful of activities and events. But it is also a symbol of difficult circulation and constant search for parking. Smart, the Mercedes-Benz branch, introduced the perfect little city car a few years ago. And even though the original version has gained a reputation for being fuel-efficient, a fully electric version will shortly hit the Canadian market: the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive.
Smart’s objective with this electric vehicle is quite simple: urban mobility. As Annette Winkler, vice-president of Smart, says, “It is the perfect city car.”
It is already its third generation. The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive has therefore undergone a few improvements since it first came to be. Most modifications were made to the motor, but a few impacted its exterior. Its look was rejuvenated with a redesigned front bumper, a new and more imposing grille, L.E.D. headlights and wider door frames. The platform has remained unchanged. Personally, I like that car.
Even though the Smart is a micro car, the driver and passenger have plenty of room in the cabin. From a design point of view, there are no major changes except for the addition of gauges for the electric engine. The seats are therefore as comfortable as ever and the other commodities are the same as in the regular Smart. It comes equipped with heated seats, A/C, electric windows, audio system, cupholders, storage, etc. The information displayed on the dials is clear and the gauges still look like a pair of eyes. And because an electric car makes virtually no sound, a pedestrian horn can also be installed. For the Canadian version, it will be an available option.
The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive will hit the Canadian market with a modified drive train. First, like most electric cars, a lithium-ion battery is placed under the driver’s seat to optimize the space. It is paired up with a 55 kW electric motor. The battery’s capacity is of 17.6 kWh and the car as an average range of 145 km, a 10km improvement when compared to the previous generation. The Smart can also reach a cruising speed of 125 km/h. It totals 96 lb.-ft. of torque and 75 hp, which is more or less the same data as for the traditional Smart Fortwo.
I got to test the electric Smart in Berlin’s busy streets and what a nice ride we had! The Smart, thanks to its reduced size, allows for a dynamic and flexible drive in the city and makes it easier to find parking. In Germany, people are allowed to park their Smart in the opposite direction of the traffic which offers more parking possibilities, but I doubt it will become a practice in Canada.
The Smart is therefore a fun car to drive and I personally have a preference for the electric version as, thanks to the weight of the battery, the car’s gravity center is lower. The suspension is also more interesting, but in my opinion, the flawless transmission of the electric version is even better. I surprised myself by forgetting I was driving an electric vehicle while navigating the Berlin streets. I’m usually nervous energy-wise, but the Smart made me completely forget about it.
Of course, you have to remain careful about the energy consumption, but the electric autonomy of the Smart is very respectable when compared to the other electric cars on the market.
The engineers have also improved the charging time to seven to eight hours, and even less with a high voltage terminal. But the numbers are similar to the other electric cars’.
In Canada, the coupe and the convertible versions will be offered with a starting price of $27,000. The only damper is the short, two-year warranty which isn’t much. I hope it will be extended once the Smart Electric Drive hits the road, which is scheduled to happen in the spring of 2013.